Nebraska

Which ballot measure would you rather have a beer with?
Voters routinely back initiatives that clash with their candidate picks — and that’s changing how things get done

In Colorado, liberal enthusiasm propelled Jared Polis into the governor’s mansion. But it wasn’t enough to carry any of three high-profile ballot measures supported by the state Democratic Party. (Rick T. Wilking/Getty Images file photo)

As voters across the country made their choices last year on ballot issues and political candidates, a disconnect emerged.

While Democrats in Colorado swept statewide races, voters sent a different message on taxes and spending by rejecting ballot measures endorsed by Democrats that would have increased revenue for education and transportation.

Trump Says Syria Pullout Should Be ‘No Surprise’; Says US Not ‘Policeman’
Members of both parties criticized the abrupt decision

President Donald Trump surprised lawmakers of both parties when he announced he would pull troops out of Syria. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images file photo)

President Donald Trump on Thursday defended his decision to remove all U.S. military troops from Syria, calling the move “no surprise” and describing it in the verbiage of his “America first” philosophy.

The commander in chief surprised lawmakers of both parties Wednesday morning when he announced his move and declared victory against the Islamic State group inside the war-torn country. Senior national security aides on Wednesday afternoon were unable to describe any withdrawal plan or firm exit date as the Pentagon referred reporters to the White House and it referred them to the Pentagon for details that apparently were not crafted before the announcement.

White House Shocked by Lawmakers’ Shock Over Trump‘s Syria Decision
White House, Pentagon cannot point to any troop withdrawal plan or final exit date

President Donald Trump is gearing up to withdraw troops from Syria. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images file photo)

Updated 4:05 p.m. | President Donald Trump on Wednesday abruptly declared victory against the Islamic State inside Syria and ordered the Pentagon to withdrawal all American military troops from the war-torn country. Lawmakers were blindsided, but senior administration officials claimed there was no reason for their confusion.

The commander in chief’s decision should have been “no surprise” to lawmakers, said a senior administration official who briefed reporters Wednesday afternoon. She declined to discuss whether Trump caught his Cabinet-level or White House national security officials off guard or whether there had been internal discussions prior to Wednesday morning.

Water Damage Affects Senate Offices in the Russell Building
Fire in oldest Senate office building leads to water woes in GOP offices

Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., clears her office of water damaged belongings on December 10, 2018, after sprinklers engaged to extinguish a fire that occurred in Russell Building on Saturday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer and Ohio Sen. Rob Portman had office damage to deal with Monday on their side of the top floor of the Russell Senate Office Building in the wake of a fire Saturday night

Portman’s front office was closed, and there was no immediate estimate for when repairs could be made. Other parts of the Portman office, where much of the staff works, was not affected. Fischer herself was spotted doing some packing and clearing belongings from her water-damaged office Monday morning.

Rep. Bacon: Trump Should Scale Back Politics When Addressing Troops
Nebraska Republican visited troops in Kuwait and Germany over Thanksgiving break

Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., said he thinks President Donald Trump will visit with U.S. troops in war zones “soon.” (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Don Bacon thinks President Donald Trump will visit U.S. troops in a war zone soon — but when he does, he should leave out the freewheeling partisan riffs that animate his speeches.

“He does have a tendency to go political,” Bacon, a Nebraska Republican who returned last week from his own trip to visit troops in Kuwait and Germany, told the Omaha World-Herald.

With Divided Congress, Health Care Action Hightails It to the States
Medicaid expansion was the biggest winner in last week’s elections

As health care debates raged over the last few years, Congress was smack dab in the middle. After Tuesday’s elections, most of the action moves to the states. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Newly-elected leaders in the states will be in a stronger position than those in Washington to steer significant shifts in health care policy over the next couple of years as a divided Congress struggles with gridlock.

State Medicaid work requirements, prescription drug prices, insurance exchanges and short-term health plans are among the areas with the potential for substantial change. Some states with new Democratic leaders may also withdraw from a multistate lawsuit aimed at killing the 2010 health care law or look for ways to curb Trump administration policies.

Tim Kaine’s Policy Agenda For a Divided Congress
Former governor, veep candidate sees opportunities for cooperation

Sen. Tim Kaine says infrastructure and health care could be two policy areas ripe for bipartisanship in a divided Congress. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

One day after the election, Virginia’s newly re-election Sen. Tim Kaine was ready to talk policy and where he thinks that Republicans and Democrats could rally to move forward in a divided Congress.

He said that for the first time in a while, there could be common ground on health care, and he singled our for praise the bipartisan opioids bill that was signed into law last month.

Feud Over Professor’s Facebook ‘Like’ Prompts Complaint Against Fortenberry Chief of Staff
Staffer not amused by ‘Fartenberry’ prank

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., participates in the news conference on a bill to repeal certain provisions on the Affordable Care Act in 2012. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The House Ethics Committee received a complaint this week about the chief of staff of Republican Rep. Jeff Fortenberry. The staffer has hounded a political science professor in recent days for liking a Facebook post mocking Fortenberry, according to the Lincoln Journal Star.

The Facebook post shows a photo of a manipulated campaign sign. Vandals added googly eyes to the congressman’s photo and changed the wording to read, “Jeff Fartenberry: Strong Families, Strong Communities, Strong Odor.”

Ben Sasse Doubts Donald Trump will Face a Real GOP Challenge in 2020
Says he will discuss possible 2020 Nebraska Senate re-election campaign next summer

Sen. Ben Sasse does not expect a serious GOP challenger to President Donald Trump for 2020. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Sen. Ben Sasse, who has at times criticized the style and substance of President Donald Trump, said Wednesday it was unlikely the president would face a strong primary challenger in 2020.

The Republican senator from Nebraska said that was because Trump, “has captured the majority of the Republican Party over the course of the last two-and-a-half years. The Republican Party electorate is pretty comfortable with the ‘anti’ positions that President Trump takes on a lot of issues.”

Ethanol Lobbying Is Up, and It Seems to Be Paying Off
Biofuels groups are spending more this year, and they may soon have summer E15 to show for it

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, holds an ear of corn in 2008. As industry groups have lobbied the Trump administration to rethink the Renewable Fuel Standard, lawmakers in the corn belt have applied pressure too. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

Biofuel groups upped their spending on lobbying this year as they pressured lawmakers and the Trump administration on issues related to the Renewable Fuel Standard, which sets minimum volumes of biofuels to be used to power cars and trucks.

Some of those efforts appear to be paying off for now, as the Trump administration has proposed to allow year-round sales of gasoline containing 15 percent ethanol, or E15, which is currently prohibited between June and September. The EPA had argued previously that E15 contributes more to summer smog than the more commonly sold gasoline with 10 percent ethanol.